School Boxes

Tiny Cat gets a scalp massage.  It's funny how it doesn't actually help him relax.

We are asked sometimes about our homeschool and what we do to 'cover' subjects.  Sometime the person asking is a teacher who is assigned to our family to oversee us and, ultimately, keeps us in the legal zone of homeschool education.  Which is this whole artificial dividing of learning and mastery into ersatz categories that make no sense and frustrates me to no end.  Like you can chop life up into little boxes, stick a label on it, and study it at the appointed time.  Well, maybe other people can, but we've got a lot of stuff to cover around here and all our boxes are open and spread out across the floor, covered in cat hair.  So we don't do boxes well.

The worst about making 'subjects' of learning is when the childs buy into it and start to panic because they just go about doing stuff and then their conventionally schooled friends are all, 'Hey, what grade are in?  What unit are you doing in math?  What's your reading level?  What kind of science you studying?
Burning Stuff is a subject at conventional school too, right?

Every once in awhile I need to remind a child who has suffered a 'what level are you at?' inquisition from their school friends that learning can be measured in many ways and taking a test and getting a score is only one way.  Rolling around to September and being assigned a new grade number is another.  Or you can make stuff see how you have improved skills or build communities with other people creating things together.  Other ways of measuring learning is communicating your ideas with other through reports or stories or drawings, or keeping records, or just waking up and knowing a little bit more than you did yesterday and, even more important, getting excited about what you are going to do today. 

Stretching rabbit pelts.  You can never really wash away the smell of rabbits, unfortunately.

My favorite way of keeping score is by how many times I have to wash my hands in a day.  In our home, we are hands on.  No, we are Hands On.  I tell the kids that our learning is 'project based' which is totally legit (Google it) but, even better, is a good shorthand for all the stuff we do and how we learn while doing it. Generally, we do not shy away from the messy stuff. 

But, to make a homeschool plan in our province that is approved by government types, we do need to play the boxes game a bit.  So I need to figure out how the things we do because we want to do them and (sometimes) they just need done fits into scheduled learning objectives relating to subjects.  To be fair, they give the objectives generally and then allow us to label our own boxes without preset categories.

Still.  Now I have to make the categories that I am categorically against?  Sneaky work, people.

This is more art than anything.  Today, for instance, the childs did Math while helping put up the insulation for a room we are building for girl child in our basement.  (Right now the childs share a room, thus, there is high motivation for both of them to get involved in the construction and speed things up.)  They had to measure up the walls and cut the insulation to size.  That means Math, yes? 

Or was it Science, because they were learning how to insulate against concrete, to keep the heat in the room and the damp out. Or maybe that's Engineering?  Is Engineering a topic in grade school?  It could be Health because preventing dampness in the room is preventing poor lung health and also they had to wash up afterwards.  No, wait, it was Physical Education, because it was a lot of physical work carrying, prepping, measuring, lifting, holding and more holding as the glue set.  Or it was Communications because there was a whole lot of instructions given by their father.  Also, they listened to the radio, so Music Appreciation!   

Girl child painted the basement stairs.  With her face, it appears.

So where I put the priority?  Also today, girl child did her first taxidermy.  I was vastly impressed at her maturity and deftness with a scalpel.  Plus, it's hilarious to listen to the muttering monologue of a twelve year old girl trying to figure out how to deal with a mouse's oversized scrotum and to incorporate it into her plan of making her mouse into a tiny rodent Greek philosopher, complete with toga and laurels.

(Do the balls tuck under?  Do exposed genitalia add or detract from the general authority of the speech posture?  Why are mouse balls so damn big?  This is why he has to wear a dress.)

(Additionally, it helps to know that one of girl child's favorite memoirists is Jenny Lawson, which explains much yet also manages to raise even more questions.)

So, taxidermy. That is Biology.  And Art?  Anthropomorphic taxidermy is also a vocabulary exercise.  Could be Sewing. Definitely Health education.  Even Sex Ed. 

Boy child tries a little light dentistry on a swine jaw we used to make headcheese with.
Whatever it is, I have a meeting coming up with my homeschool authority to try to explain what it is we are doing and whether or not we meeting the learning objectives I said that we would meet.  Luckily, my homeschool people are totally onboard with the unschooling and work to help me articulate what it is we are doing and how to translate into the language that the educational authorities can understand. 

Also good for us is they allow me to use my Instagram account as part of our portfolio to show examples of our projects.  I use a specific hashtag I can search and bring up our portfolio at our teacher meetings.  My account is here, if you are interested.

I leave you now with our current favorite super Hands On STEM Youtube Channel, The Brain Scoop, which is fascinating for so many reasons and so good for my science-y girl to watch.  Also, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) is a great way to make a big box to throw a bunch of stuff in and not have to sort it out.  Sort of like how I always label all my moving boxes with 'miscellaneous'.     

1 comment:

  1. What?!? But how can they learn if they don't sit at desks, only speaking when it's their turn, and doing the same project as everyone else?!? Your kids are very lucky. What an experience you are allowing them. Good job.